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My right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced on 14 December that funds had been allocated in two stages to allow trustees of currently charging national museums in England to introduce free admission for children in 1999-2000 and pensioners in 2000-01. This reflects our expectation that they will endorse the first two stages of our programme to widen access.
Funds have also been set aside to enable those national museums and galleries in England that wish to offer universal free access in 2001-02 to do so, and discussions about this will take place between my department and the museums over the coming year.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced last month that funds have been allocated to allow trustees of currently charging national museums in England to introduce free admission for children in 1999-2000.
It will not be necessary for admission charges for adults to be increased, as the funds available will compensate the museums in full for the reduction in income resulting from free admission for children.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State's announcement on 14 December made funding proposals which will enable those national museums and galleries in England which currently charge for admission to extend free access to their collections. Where charges continue to be made, their precise level is a matter for the trustees of the institution concerned. My right honourable friend continues to monitor carefully the overall efficiency and value for money achieved by the national museums and galleries in the light of the substantial grant-in-aid funding they receive.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced last month that funds have been allocated to enable trustees of currently charging national museums in England to introduce free admission for children in 1999-2000. We expect that this will permit all these museums to allow free entry to all children aged 16 years and under from April 1999.
When they will make detailed announcements of how QUEST (Quality, Efficiency and Standards Team) will operate; and how the public will receive information of its activities.[HL376]
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The work of the Quality, Efficiency and Standards Team (QUEST) will cover all areas of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's activities. It will seek out good practice in each area and look for ways in which it might be applied in other sectors. The core team posts will be advertised in the normal way; although a background in arts, sport, tourism, etc, may be useful, it will not be a prerequisite. One of the advantages of a small team will be that they can draw in individuals with more specialised knowledge and experience to assist on individual projects.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No additional statutory controls arise from the inclusion of a site in the World Heritage List. However, as stated in the Government's Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment, inclusion does highlight the outstanding international importance of the site and its setting as a key material consideration to be taken into account in the planning process.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The right honourable Michael Meacher, MP, Minister of State for the Environment, and my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State in the Scottish Office (Lord Sewel), represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council which took place in Brussels on 20-21 December.
The Council reached agreement on a new regulation to control the use of substances that deplete the ozone layer. This regulation implements and goes beyond the requirements of the Montreal Protocol, setting tougher controls for the production, supply and use of ozone depleting substances.
Agreement was reached by the Council on a number of air quality issues. A directive controlling the emissions from Heavy Duty Vehicles was agreed introducing initial emission cuts of 30 per cent. by 2000 and then further cuts of particulates by 80 per cent in 2005. We also agreed reductions of NOx by 60 per cent. in 2008, subject to a review of the technical feasibility of implementing these proposals in 2002. This directive also sets standards for gas engines for the first time. In addition, as part of the EU strategy on carbon dioxide emissions from cars, two measures complementing the voluntary agreement with European Car Manufacturers Association (ACEA) endorsed by Environment Ministers in October were agreed. The first is for a scheme to monitor the emissions from new cars and the second will require information on the fuel consumption and carbon monoxide emissions of new cars to be prominently displayed in promotional literature. The Council also adopted Conclusions requesting a progress report at the March 1999 Environment Council on the Commission's negotiations with non-European car manufacturers which seek to secure an equivalent agreement to that reached with ACEA earlier this year.
Council Conclusions were agreed on the Community's Chemicals Policy and on a review of environmental and health standards following the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden in addition to an amendment to the directive on the labelling of dangerous substances extending by two years derogations granted to Austria and Sweden on their accession.
Ministerial debates were held on two other important dossiers. Although formal agreement could not be reached on the directive concerning End of Life Vehicles in the absence of the European Parliament's opinion, a considerable degree of common understanding was reached which will give member states reasonable flexibility in implementation of the directive. An orientation debate on the proposal for a revision of the 1990 directive controlling the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms showed that all member states agreed that a revision of the directive should be agreed as soon as possible. This will return to the Council in March. In the interim, Ministers agreed to exploit the flexibility of the existing directive to strengthen environmental risk assessment and monitoring arrangements.
Over lunch, Ministers had an informal discussion on integration, where they were joined by the Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler. And following a Ministerial dinner to discuss Climate Change, the Presidency adopted Conclusions on climate change which note the achievements of Buenos Aires and set out areas for further discussion.
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